Spacecraft as thin as human hair will clean space of junk

Debris collecting around Earth's orbit will soon be cleaned up by a lightweight, paper-thin spacecraft.

    2017/09/07

NSFW    EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA — NASA has awarded $500,000 for the development of an innovative new spacecraft that promises to get rid of orbital trash.

According to a press release from the Aerospace Corporation, space debris in the form of spent rocket parts, old satellites, shrapnel and other items are accumulating around Earth's orbit, which may make collisions more common.

To address this issue, NASA is looking to Aerospace's Brane Craft, a light, 3 foot-by-3 foot spacecraft that's thinner than human hair.

When deployed, the Brane Craft moves toward a piece of debris and wraps itself around the item. It then fires its thrusters and pushes back toward the Earth.

The spacecraft eventually lowers itself and the debris down to the atmosphere, where both are incinerated.

The Brane Craft is intended to be light and cheap enough that it can be sacrificed at the end of a cleaning mission.

But it may also have other applications beyond just collecting trash. The spacecraft is extremely fuel-efficient, making it fully capable of travelling long distances, perhaps to explore and mine asteroids or other space rocks.
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